Thalaivii Movie Review: Kangana shines as J Jayalalithaa, Arvind Swamy brings MGR alive on screen


Guwahati: No one can live, love, and lead like a woman. When she loves, she becomes protective like a tigress on a prowl and when she leads, she is unstoppable as if challenging the sky to up her limits, because she’s only going to fly higher. J Jayalalithaa was that woman.

The history of Indian politics has seen many female leaders finding their own way into the man’s club which has been ruthless and condescending to any woman with ambitions and a success plan – even during the years when the country was being led by Indira Gandhi, one of the most powerful women in the world’s history. Thalaivii, Jayalalithaa’s biopic, shows how influential men take no time in dismissing a woman’s capabilities and success every day, leave giving them a level playing field to prove themselves! It might resist showing all the facets of Dravidian politics, but one thing that it truly shows is the making of a leader like no other. The AL Vijay-directed film, featuring Kangana Ranaut in the role of former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu – J Jayalalithaa, is a celebration of empowerment, victory of a woman’s pledge, her honour, and her unshakable confidence in the worst of the times. Kangana, with her concrete and aggressive acting, only makes it easier to understand the highs and lows of Amma’s life. 

You do not need to know the political history of Tamil Nadu or understand the power-tussle to watch Thalaivii. That’s probably the best part of the narrative. The film is more than politics. It is about a woman’s relationship with a man whom she considered everything and her incredible work towards the people of the land who fondly called her Amma. The writers of the film, KV Vijayendra Prasad and Rajat Arora (Hindi version), waste no time in establishing that dishonouring a woman would always lead to destruction – Ramayana or Mahabharata! 

Thalaivii begins with the incident from 1989 when violence erupted in the Tamil Nadu Assembly and Jayalalithaa was assaulted and manhandled. To an extent that the leaders of the DMK pulled her saree-pallu and dragged her from her hair. That day she took a pledge to return to the assembly only after becoming the Chief Minister and within two years, she overthrew M Karunanidhi as the CM, giving a new face to the politics of Tamil Nadu – the one that didn’t reek of patriarchy. As the story progresses, we see a truly handsome and incredibly talented Arvind Swamy taking over the screens as everyone’s beloved MGR, the founder of AIADMK, and Jayalalitha’s love interest, though their relationship never became official.

Kangana and Arvind act like the two sides of the same coin – with the same ease and effortlessness. They recreate many iconic moments from MGR and Jayalalithaa’s popular movies and prove that a relationship needs both love and acceptance to nurture. In a scene, when MJR tells Jaya that he will have to leave her alone because of his duty towards the public, she breaks down only to rise like a phoenix from ashes. The makers didn’t show Jaya’s rise as her’s alone; the contribution of MGR’s personal and professional growth in her success has been well established. That she devoted herself to his ways of leadership, and at the same time never compromised her self-respect even when the whole world questioned their relationship, has been her major win. The man might have feared the society and refused to accept his own choices but the woman – she was fearless, she didn’t need any label on herself – Amma was enough!

Thalaivii surprises you with its story as it cleverly centres the whole politics around the achievement of one woman. Kangana and Arvind are a delight to watch together. This is probably the first time we see her being so comfortable with her male counterpart on-screen. The actor is fabulous in Thalaivii and gives probably the best performance of her career but her chemistry with Arvind is unlike anything that we have seen in any of her films before. There’s both a stoic silence and arrogance of love in their chemistry.

Actor Raj Arjun, who was recently seen in Shershaah in a brief role, also shook things up with his negative role in Zaira Wasim-led Secret Superstar, is the whole package of drama in Thalaivii. As MGR’s closest aide RM Veerappan, he lets his silence become powerful than his words. This looks like the first time when Raj has been given enough to showcase his talent in abundance. This is one character that makes you feel inquisitive to know about him more, and for Raj, it definitely now creates a separate fanbase.

The only problem with Thalaivii is its length. The story as celebratory as Jayalalithaa’s deserves a tighter climax and more about her family. The actor’s bonding with her mother (played by Bhagyashree) seems patchy as if there was more that could have been fetched out from there. The same happens with MGR and his wife Janki’s (played by Madhu) relationship. You are never told how she dealt with the constant gossips, news items, and rumours around her husband’s relationship with another woman, and how she still remained devoted to him despite all of that. The entertainment though never takes a backseat. Thalaivii is a win-win for both Kangana and the audience!